Do you ever think of your face as something you own? Probably not. But, through photography, our faces can find themselves in all sorts of places. Even if you’re a model and it’s how you make your living, it can be really disconcerting to spot yourself somewhere you didn’t expect. So how might our faces find themselves in places we didn’t want them to be? And can we do something about it if we’re not happy?
If you’re in front of the camera for a living, then it’s likely that you’re pretty well aware of how to keep control of your image, but there are plenty of aspiring models who may not know their rights in this respect:
If you don’t have an agreement or contract as a model, then there can be plenty of misconceptions around who can photograph you, where and for what purpose. The law in this area is complex. It’s an area that can make the average human shudder in fear of the weight of rules and laws, including the laws of breach of confidence, breach of privacy (if there is one!), the European Convention of Human Rights, and GDPR.
You don’t always have a right to prevent your photo being taken…
When you’re out and about in public spaces (streets, public squares, public transport and more), then you may be fair game for photographers. It may not be nice, polite or even ethical to take photos of strangers without asking first, but it is not necessarily against the law or a breach of your privacy.
…but there are plenty of times and places when you can expect privacy
There are times, though, where you can have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If your photo is taken anywhere that could be argued is not public, then you may have cause for complaint. This could be in an office, a hotel corridor (e.g., if only accessed by security card), your home, a place where a conscious effort has been made to make it private, or on any kind of private property, such as a church. There are also some scenarios that may be deemed private – for example, if your photograph is taken as you leave a hospital, care home, clinic, rehabilitation setting, prison or even a food bank.
These rules apply to adults and children alike
Age is not necessarily a factor and, as above, what rights a child may have can depend on the circumstances. You may not necessarily have cause for complaint if you or your children are photographed in a public place, but the location, events, country and circumstances around the taking of the photo are all factors in the bigger picture.
You may have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If your photo is taken anywhere that could be argued is not public, then you may have cause for complaint.
Of course, the way a photographer conducts themself is also really important here. Even if you are in a public space, and they can quite legitimately photograph you, you have every right to expect them to not to be obstructive, inappropriate, aggressive or intimidating. This may constitute harassment and can be dealt with by the authorities. Equally, if you discover that someone has or is trying to photograph you in a sexual way without your consent, this may be a crime.
The terms and conditions of Facebook state that you may not use their products to “do or share anything that infringes or breaches someone else’s rights”. However, there is also another aspect to consider. If your image is used and captioned in a way that is misleading, discriminatory or libellous, then you may have another legal framework by which to demand action. Requesting the removal of images from social platforms is possible on both Facebook and Instagram, with Instagram having a specific ‘by image’ report button that includes breaches of intellectual property, hate speech, harassment and more.
So, the next time you have a lens pointed at you, simply think of the three Ps – Payment, Permission and Privacy – and ask yourself, “am I being paid for this? Does the photographer have my permission? Am I in a private place or context?” and you might not find your face where you least expect it.
If you have any worries about a particular use of your image, it’s always a good idea to seek further independent legal advice, specific to your concerns, circumstances and country.